This story follows the story Chuck vs. the Midnight Clear.
Twenty-four hours. That's how long it had been since Chuck had basically lost his mind, informed Sarah in no uncertain terms that he'd never be able to trust her again, and demanded his mother's charm bracelet back.
As far as he was concerned, it was quite the Christmas miracle that he had had Ellie and Casey around to smack him back into line – Ellie with a glass of ice water, Casey by dragging Chuck bodily into his apartment.
Either way, though, Chuck had ended up going to Sarah's hotel room to apologize, but then had somehow blurted out that he loved her. That had taken her by surprise, but it was enough to shock her into realizing that he was being sincere.
Since then, Sarah had spent Christmas Day with Chuck, Ellie, and Devon, and seemed to have had a really good time. She had also consumed her fair share of adult beverages… her fair share, and Chuck's fair share, and possibly Ellie's fair share.
"It's a good thing you drove me here, Chuck," she said with a giggle. "These things that Devon makes… Devon, what did you call them?"
Devon grinned. "My special Christmas Mojito," he replied. "Twice the alcohol!"
Chuck laughed and shook his head. "Mo-HEE-to," Sarah said slowly. "'Twas delicious."
"Oookay," Chuck said. "Your speech has turned into 'The Night Before Christmas'. I think it's time to get you home."
Half an hour later, Chuck had finally managed to get Sarah to her hotel room. She didn't seem to be in any danger of passing out or getting sick, so he wasn't too concerned. As he turned to leave, though –
"You aren't REALLY planning on walking out that door, are you?"
Chuck froze, and turned back to face Sarah. "What do you mean?"
Sarah put her hands on her hips, a cross look appearing on her face. "It is only 9:30 PM, sir. If you leave now, I will be incredibly bored on Christmas night, and after your little stunt from last night, I do believe you owe me!"
With an imperious sniff, Sarah moved to sit down on her bed, tossing her hair back haughtily as she did so. Chuck couldn't help laughing. "You're cute when you're drunk, you know that?"
Sarah arched an eyebrow. "Cute?" Chuck smiled and nodded. "Mr. Bartowski, I will have you know that I am not cute. I am the hottest woman you will ever meet."
"Okay!" Chuck exclaimed, laughing again. "Also extraordinarily self-confident!"
"That's right," Sarah replied, nodding her head. "And as such, I am going to offer you the privilege of giving me a back rub."
"The 'privilege'?" Chuck asked, not even bothering to try to not laugh now. "Boy, when that rum hits your head, you really have a personality shift, don't you?"
Sarah froze. "Rum?"
"Uh, yeah," Chuck replied. "There's a lot of rum in a mojito, Sarah."
"Oh," she whispered. "Shit."
Chuck cocked his head to the side. "Had some bad experiences with rum, have we?"
Sarah sighed. "Let's just say that the Captain and I are not friends."
Chuck grinned broadly. "Lightweight," he teased her. He got a pillow thrown at him for his troubles.
"Hey!" Chuck objected. "You want that back rub, or not?"
"Yes, I most certainly do!" Sarah replied. "Get over here."
Half an hour later, Sarah was just about as relaxed as is possible for a human being. Chuck's hands were starting to get sore, so he called for a break, and stood up. He looked out the window –
"Holy crap," he said softly.
"What is it?" came Sarah's muffled voice, her face planted in a pillow.
"It's… snowing," Chuck replied, incredulity in his voice.
Sarah sat up and looked at Chuck in disbelief. "You're kidding," she said.
Chuck shook his head and pointed. "Look."
Sarah crossed to the window and pulled open the drapes. "No way," she breathed.
Chuck joined her at the window, and they looked down to Flower Street. As they watched, a car slowly started skidding down the street, the helpless driver not having a clue about how to drive in the snow. "Yeah, you're not going anywhere for a while, Chuck," Sarah said, the agent in her coming out despite her less-than-sober state.
"I concur," Chuck said with a nod. He turned away from the window, back toward the room – and the lights flickered, then went dead.
"Now you're REALLY not going anywhere," Sarah said, but this time, a little of the steel was gone from her voice, replaced with – could it be? – a touch of flirtatiousness.
"Oh, joy," Chuck deadpanned. "I have to spend the night hanging out with you. How unfortunate."
Sarah crossed to the bed, grabbed a pillow, and without a word, whacked Chuck in the head. "I'll give you unfortunate," she muttered, giggling as she did so.
"Hey, hey now!" Chuck objected. "Watch the head! You could damage the Intersect!"
"Oh, please," Sarah groaned. "Of all the times to try to use the Intersect to protect yourself. Wuss."
"I'm not getting into this with you," Sarah replied, mock-seriously.
"That's right. Fine."
Both Chuck and Sarah sat down on the bed, facing away from each other, and were quiet for nearly two minutes. They couldn't hold it, though, and both started laughing.
"We're ridiculous," Sarah observed.
"Yes, we are," Chuck agreed. "The question is, are we going to sit here doing nothing, or are we going to have some fun with our ridiculousness?"
"Oh, definitely some fun," Sarah replied. "In fact, I have an idea. Want to hear it?"
Chuck smiled. "As long as it doesn't involve bombs, guns, Fulcrum, puzzle boxes, or Arabian oil sheiks, I'm game."
Sarah grinned. "Okay," she said. "Here's the deal. You and I are going to come up with ten scenarios, different circumstances under which we might have met."
"Hmmm," Chuck said thoughtfully. "That sounds quite intriguing."
"Yep," Sarah said. "We'll go back and forth. You get to go first."
"Wha – why me?!"
Sarah smiled. "Because I said so, Chuck."
Chuck grunted. "Fine."
Lieutenant Chuck Bartowski was an Air Force hotshot.
Oh, come on. Seriously? That's how you're going to start this?!
HEY! This is MY story, and besides, it was your idea for me to go first.
Lieutenant Chuck Bartowski was an Air Force hotshot. In fact, he was quite possibly the most valuable member of the US Air Force.
Sure, he might've appeared to have been a mere F-15 weapons systems officer, but the truth of the matter was that he and his pilot, Captain John Casey, made up part of a project known as Omaha.
Chuck had spent the last three months being introduced to a new military imaging system that allowed a human brain to retain and access huge amounts of info-
Huge amounts of information. The CIA had sent out a new project representative, and she had been introduced to the team that morning.
Chuck was looking forward to actually meeting this representative. That morning, she had given Chuck the most brilliant smile he had ever seen, which had prompted his friend, Devon Woodcomb, to inform Chuck in no uncertain terms that the CIA representative "wanted him".
Chuck wasn't quite so sure. However, somebody was knocking at the doors to his quarters, and he had a certain suspicion as to who that might be. As he opened the door –
"Lieutenant Bartowski?" she asked, and extended her hand. "I'm Sarah Walker. We didn't really have a chance to meet earlier…"
Chuck looked down at himself. Alienware t-shirt and jeans. Slick, Bartowski, he thought with a mental groan. "Yeah. Please, call me Chuck." He looked around his less-than-presentable quarters. "Would you like to come in?"
"Actually," Sarah replied, "I was wondering if you'd like to go get dinner. I know, it's a little early, but I was thinking that might be a good way for us to talk, to get to know each other a little better. As I understand it, we're going to be working together quite a bit, and I think it would be a good idea for us to be familiar with one another."
Chuck nodded. "Fair enough. Let me… let me get into uniform," he said, "and I'll be right with you."
Sarah grinned. "The Air Force, Chuck?"
Chuck shrugged. "I seriously considered it for a long time," he replied. "Ellie talked me out of it, though – I graduated high school right around the time of the Kosovo air strikes, and she was scared to death that I was going to end up dead." He snorted. "Oh, how little she knows."
He was quiet for a moment, and then turned to Sarah. "But, nonetheless, it's your turn."
"Alright," Sarah said. "Here we go."
It was March 30th, 2005. Jennifer Burton stood on the stage of the Kodak Theatre, scared stiff. She had never thought she would be on American Idol –
Oh, and you gave ME crap for being in the Air Force?!
I'll hit you with a pillow again…
Shutting up now.
- but here she was, getting ready to sing her third round song.
The music started, and Jennifer licked her lips. As her entrance came up, though, she started panicking. What was I thinking? she thought. "Good-Bye Earl?" Oh, God, Simon's gonna tear me apart…
So she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and started singing – and before she realized it, she was done. She grinned and looked out at the judges –
Randy had a somber look on his face. Paula looked apologetic, and Simon just looked disgusted.
Half an hour later, Jennifer Burton was sent packing. As she left the theatre, she was stopped by one of the other contestants. "I thought you did a really good job," the blonde said, sounding sincere. "It's tough to handle those Dixie Chicks songs."
Jennifer tried to smile. "Thanks, Carrie," she said, and kept walking.
Ten minutes later, she was on the Red Line subway, headed to downtown, and her loft. She couldn't help but let out a disappointed sigh as she sat down – but at the same time, she was mildly relieved. It was over. There would be no more crazy stress, no more insane scheduling – she could go back to living her life.
When the train stopped at the Hollywood and Western station, a tired looking young man, about Jennifer's age, boarded. His tie was loosened, his coat slung over his shoulder, and a briefcase dangled from his fingertips. He groaned softly as he slumped down across from her.
"Long day?" Jennifer asked.
He laughed and shook his head. "You have no idea," he said. "I try to tell my boss, this housing bubble isn't going to last forever, that it's gonna burst eventually, but he won't listen, and he wants me to do all these crazy real estate deals…"
He opened his eyes and looked at her, then cocked his head. "You look familiar," he said with a frown. "Have we met before?"
She shook her head. "No," Jennifer said, "although, I was on American Idol until tonight."
"That might be it," he said. "What's your name?"
"Jennifer," she replied.
She could see him racking his brain for answers. "That's gotta be it," he said. "I don't know any Jennifers that look like you." He extended his name across the aisle. "Chuck."
Jennifer raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know people still named their kids Chuck."
Chuck grinned. "What can I say. My parents were sadists."
Chuck crossed his arms and frowned. "That's cheating," he complained. "You can't use something from the actual first time we met!"
"Says who?!" Sarah shot back. "This is MY game, buster!"
Chuck didn't say anything, instead just sticking his tongue out.
"Oh, REAL mature," Sarah groaned. "It's your turn."
Chuck Bartowski groaned under the weight of the cardboard box in his hands. West Wing staffer or not, he was getting absolutely no help in moving in.
That was okay, though. He was perfectly happy to move into his own office if it meant being a part of the Obama administration. Sure, he was pretty much as low on the totem pole as he could get – he had been stuck in an office called the "Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Room" on the White House blueprints – but that was okay. He was working IN THE WHITE HOUSE.
He finally found the office, and pushed the door open. He flicked on the light switch, and sighed as the fluorescent tubes slowly flickered to life. He unceremoniously dumped his box on the desk – and then sighed again as he saw that the desktop computer's components had been piled haphazardly in the corner.
Chuck had gotten the computer together, and was booting it up – "Oh, good Christ, Windows 98?!" – when there was a light tap on his door. He looked up –
"Hi," said the blonde standing in the doorway, sounding uncertain of herself. "I'm, uh, looking for the Signals Annex – do you know where that is?"
Chuck grinned, and pointed across the hall. "It's the door right behind you," he replied.
She turned around. "Oh, okay!" Then she turned back toward his office. "What do they call your office?"
"Well," Chuck replied, "as far as the OMB is concerned, this is the office of the associate junior counsel. However, according to White House blueprints, it is also known as the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Room."
She smiled. "Okay. Interesting name." She cocked her head to the side. "So, you work for the White House Counsel?"
Chuck nodded. "Yes indeed, I do. Pretty much there is nobody below me, either."
Her smile got bigger. "I know what you mean. I'm CIA, assigned to the National Security Council – but I'm really just a glorified gofer, as far as I can tell."
"CIA?" Chuck asked. "Really. Maybe we should get to know each other – something tells me that the CIA might be getting in trouble on a regular basis."
Chuck, please tell me that wasn't your idea of trying to pick me up.
"Alright," the blonde replied. "My name's Sarah Walker. What's yours?"
"Chuck Bartowski," he said. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Sarah Walker."
Sarah shook her head. "Chuck, that was an incredibly lame pickup line."
Chuck blew a raspberry at her.
"Oh, REALLY," Sarah replied. "Now you've done it."
Chuck Bartowski was ten years old. He was spending a carefree Saturday riding his bike through his family's neighborhood in Woodland Hills.
As he rounded a corner, though, he froze. His bike screeched to a halt – for less than a block away was the neighborhood teenage bully and his gang.
"Hey, look!" the bully shouted. "It's Bartowski! What do you say we go have a little fun, boys?!"
He was greeted with a chorus of general agreement. "Aw, crap," Chuck moaned. Turning his bike around as fast as he could, he started pedaling away – but he only had a cruiser, and the older boys all had either eighteen or twenty-one speed mountain bikes.
Soon enough, the bullies surrounded him, and the ringleader brought his bike to a halt in front of Chuck. "Alright, Bartowski," he said, picking Chuck up from his bike by the collar, "give me all the money you have, and I'll only give you a wedgie."
Chuck bit his lip, desperately trying not to cry in front of the bully. "I don't have any money, John," he replied. "My mom only gives me money for lunch on school days."
John narrowed his eyes. "Oh, really, Bartowski," he said. "What if I said, 'I don't believe you'?"
Chuck froze in fear. "Seriously!"
John started laughing – and then one of his gang members decided to throw fuel on the fire. "Kick his ass, Casey!"
Chuck's collar was released, and he collapsed backward against his bike. "Bartowski, give me one reason why I shouldn't kick your ass," John Casey growled with a laugh.
"Because if you do, I'll mace you."
Chuck whirled around, to see a girl he hadn't met before standing behind him. She looked to be about his age, was wearing braces, and looked a little nerdy, but nonetheless didn't look like somebody he'd want to mess with.
Casey looked confused. "Who the hell are you?"
The girl narrowed her eyes. "My name's Jennifer Burton. My daddy says that people like you need to be taught a lesson." Reaching into her backpack, she pulled out a canister of mace the size of her arm. "Do you need to be taught a lesson?"
John Casey's eyes widened. "Nope, we're good!"
Before Jennifer could get the mace back into her backpack, Casey and his posse were streaking down the street as quickly as their bikes would carry them. "Wow," Chuck breathed. "Thanks!"
"You're welcome," Jennifer replied. "What's your name?"
"I'm Chuck Bartowski," he said. "Did anybody ever tell you that you look kind of like Vicki Vale?"
Chuck's jaw dropped. "You did it again!"
"On the contrary!" Sarah shot back. "You only ever referred to me as Vicki Vale BEFORE you saw me. It was MORGAN that called me Vicki Vale!"
Chuck rolled his eyes. "Technicalities, technicalities."
Sarah smiled and heaved a pillow at him. "Shut up and entertain me."
The horse crested the ridge, the castle coming into view before them. "Your fat ass needs to lose some weight," the horse wheezed.
"Shut up, Morgan," Sir Charles of Bartowski shot back. "It is our duty to save the fair maiden. Whether or not my posterior is getting a bit heavy is inconsequential."
Wait. I'm sorry, what? Sir Charles of Bartowski? And I'm a "fair maiden"?!
Hey, you never said it had to be realistic.
What does that mean? I'm not a "fair maiden"?
I am so not playing this game with you.
"This woman better be worth it," Morgan grumbled, as he galloped toward the castle.
The drawbridge over the moat was up when they reached the castle grounds – "But look, an open door!" Charles exclaimed. "You can easily jump that, Morgan!"
Morgan looked at the moat in disbelief. "Aw, HELL no!"
Charles smacked his horse in the back of his head. "Do it, Morgan!"
Morgan sighed, and backed up a little. "We're gonna die."
Starting off at a trot, he quickly sped up to a fast gallop, getting closer and closer to the moat with every step. Just before he reached the moat, though, he brought himself to a screeching halt.
Sir Charles, not having a very good grip on Morgan, was heaved from the horse. He flew through the air, across the moat, landing in the open doorway with a great crash of armor.
Charles lay very still for a moment. Morgan was beginning to grow concerned, but then Charles stirred. "You low down, dirty son of a bitch," he groaned at Morgan.
"Hey, you wanted to get over the moat, you're over the moat," Morgan shot back. "And when you're ready to leave, you can damn well lower the drawbridge and walk out."
Sir Charles shot a dirty look at Morgan, but said nothing, simply adjusting his armor and wandering into the castle. He had gone perhaps fifty yards when he encountered a dragon.
"Aw, shit!" he yelped. "Nobody told me there was a dragon!"
"OF COURSE THERE'S A DRAGON," the dragon boomed. "THERE'S ALWAYS A DRAGON IN THESE STORIES, YOU TOOL!"
Hey. Am I telling this story, or are you?
What, are you saying that I'm not worth fighting a dragon?
You know, I retract my earlier statement about you being cute when you're drunk. You're just a pain in the ass.
I'll give you a pain in the ass –
Now finish the story.
Sir Charles looked up at the dragon. "What is your name, dragon?"
"I AM FULCRUM!"
Charles rolled his eyes. "Of course you are," he replied. "Bryce Larkin's down the hall."
The dragon cocked its head. "Oh," it said. "I didn't think you'd volunteer that information so easily." Turning away from Charles, it flew off and away.
Well, have they ever actually come looking for ME?! No! They're always looking for Bryce!
Charles moved deeper into the castle. Finally, he reached a locked door. With a mighty kick, he broke the door down, to find the fair maiden waiting with in.
"Fair maiden," he proclaimed, "I am Sir Charles of Bartowski, and I am here to rescue you!"
The blonde woman turned around and gave him a dirty look. "Lady Jennifer Burton," she replied, "and it's about damn time."
Chuck gave Sarah an equally dirty look. "You know, it's not as fun when you editorialize throughout the entire story."
Sarah grinned. "Says you."
"Oh, now you've done it," Chuck said, lunging across the bed toward Sarah. She moved almost as quickly as she usually did – but in her currently inebriated state, she didn't move quite quickly enough to stay away from Chuck, who grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back onto the bed.
Sarah shrieked as Chuck poked her in the side. "Ticklish much?" he asked with a devilish grin.
"Oh, you're a dead man," she replied, tickling Chuck back. When nothing happened, though, her eyes grew wide, and his grin grew wider.
"Sorry, not ticklish," he said, a mocking tone to his voice.
"Fine," Sarah shot back. She moved slightly – and before Chuck knew it, he had been flipped over on his back, and Sarah had successfully immobilized both of his hands. "I might be drunk," she whispered, "but I'm still a CIA operative."
Chuck nodded, the grin still on his face. "Fair enough," he said quietly – and when Sarah felt the light touch of his breath on her lips, she realized just how close her face had gotten to his.
She didn't move for a moment. Mentally, she tried to will Chuck to do something – and finally, he did, but it wasn't exactly what she wanted.
Sarah Walker was a junior at the University of San Diego. She was attending the prestigious school on a CIA scholarship, and as such, occasionally had to do odd jobs on behalf of CIA Director Arthur Graham.
Today's trip was one of those. She was on the I-5 freeway, headed northbound, having left San Diego six hours before. She had been instructed to go to Stanford University and make contact with Professor Bruce Fleming, code name "Glass Castle." He was going to introduce her to two of his students who he had identified as possible recruits for the CIA.
Graham's instructions to Sarah had been to speak with the two students, maybe go to lunch with them, and get an impression of them that she could report back to him. He wanted to know if they were CIA material or not.
Sarah arrived on the Stanford campus just after noon. She went directly to Professor Fleming's office. "Good afternoon, Ms. Walker," he greeted her when she entered the office. "My name's Bruce Fleming – but I'm sure you already knew that."
She nodded. "Good," Fleming continued. "My two students are on their way. Your cover is that you're a former student of mine who now works for a Fortune 500 company, and is looking for individuals who might fit what the company's looking for."
Sarah nodded again. "What company would that be, sir?"
Fleming grinned. "Oh, you're not going to tell them what company it is. You will tell them that you, unfortunately, have to keep things completely anonymous to avoid appearances of unethical business practices."
Sarah raised an eyebrow. "You really have this all thought out, don't you?"
"When you've been in the CIA for nearly three decades, you'll discover that there is no detail too small for your attention," Fleming replied. "One tiny mistake can get you killed in this business."
Sarah wanted to ask Fleming what sort of mistake he meant, but she was cut off by his intercom. "Professor, your visitors are here," his receptionist said.
"Good," Fleming replied. "Please send them in."
The office door opened, and two young men, about Sarah's age, walked into the office. The one in front had light blue eyes and very dark brown, almost black, hair – and he needed a haircut, as far as Sarah was concerned. The one in back had brown eyes and curly brown hair – and he needed a hair cut too.
"Ms. Walker," Fleming said, "these are my two top students – Bryce Larkin and Chuck Bartowski. Bryce, Chuck, this is Sarah Walker. She's a former student of mine, and she now works for a Fortune 500 company. This company is interested in the two of you, so try not to screw up."
Bryce raised an eyebrow and turned to Chuck. "Do we ever screw things up?"
An innocent look on his face, Chuck replied, "Nope, not us."
"Except on April Fools' Day… and Halloween… and any other night of the week you two nutjobs get bored," Fleming interjected dryly.
Sarah laughed. "I can see that you two will be a handful," she said. She extended her hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Bryce."
"And you," he replied, taking her hand. She took a split second to analyze him. Inquisitive eyes, firm grip, a lean, hungry look about him. He might be agent material.
"And Chuck, nice to meet you as well," she said, turning to the other student. As he took her hand, she took in his appearance – his eyes seemed to be taking everything in – his grip wasn't too tight, not too soft, but just enough to make her feel comfortable. He also seemed to be aware of everything around him. He'd make good husb – I mean, agent –
Chuck's jaw had dropped open. "What did you just say?"
Sarah's hands flew to her face. "No, Chuck – I mean, not that you wouldn't – but – dammit, this is why Captain Morgan and I don't get along."
Chuck laughed softly. "It's okay, Sarah. I understand. I'll drop it… okay?"
Sarah sighed in relief. "Thank you."
"There is one thing, though," Chuck said. Sarah cringed, and he quickly added, "No, not about that. It's about the story – did you really get sent to Stanford to assess two of Professor Fleming's students?"
Sarah nodded. "I was supposed to," she replied. "However, I got really sick the weekend that I was supposed to go, and Graham ended up sending somebody else instead. I have no idea if I would've been meeting with you and Bryce or not – but… it's an interesting thought."
"Interesting indeed," Chuck said. "Since you went with a college story, though… I think I will too."
Chuck really hadn't wanted to come to Stanford's homecoming game. It wasn't that he didn't want to go back and visit Stanford – it was just that with them playing UCLA, they were sure to get pummeled, and he really didn't want to spend the whole drive back to Los Angeles with Ellie and Awesome giving him crap.
In the five years since he had graduated from Stanford, Chuck had done okay for himself. He oversaw IT for General Growth Properties, which had its West Coast headquarters and four gigantic malls in Los Angeles. It was a boring, thankless job sometimes, but it paid well, and he couldn't complain about that.
What he could complain about, though, was the fact that Ellie would not stop harping on him and Jill, wanting to know when they were going to set a date. They had been engaged for nearly four years –
It's just a story. Calm down.
As it was, she, having been a member of Stanford's Class of 2003, would also be at their "five year reunion" dinner with him. They were bound to get more of the same, and Chuck REALLY wasn't looking forward to that.
At the dinner, though, they got lucky enough to sit with people they had never known, and who wouldn't know who they were – plus their old friend Bryce Larkin, and his date.
"Bryce!" Chuck had exclaimed upon seeing him at the table. "Long time, no see!"
"No joke," Bryce replied, standing and smiling. "And Jill! You two are still together?"
Jill held up her left hand. "Engaged… and in a holding pattern," she said resignedly.
Bryce looked from Chuck to Jill and back again. "So… are you ever going to make an honest woman of her?"
Chuck threw his hands up in the air in disbelief. "You know what, I have to hear about this from my sister ALL the time."
"Okay, sorry, sorry," Bryce replied. "My bad. Um, Chuck, Jill, this is my girlfriend, Sarah Walker. Sarah, this is my old roommate, Chuck Bartowski, and his fiancée, Jill Roberts."
The tall blonde stood from her chair. "Nice to meet you, Chuck, Jill," she said, extending her hand.
Dinner progressed fairly uneventfully. After about an hour, Bryce stood and announced he had to use the restroom. Jill did the same about two minutes later.
Somehow, it didn't dawn on either Chuck or Sarah that they had been gone for a while until it had been almost fifteen minutes. "Boy, they've been gone for a while, haven't they?" Chuck asked, trying to break the silence.
Sarah looked at her watch, alarm written on her face. "Yes, they have," she muttered, standing.
"You going to go look for them?" Chuck asked. "I can come with you…"
"Whatever," Sarah replied distractedly, heading toward the ballroom doors, Chuck in her wake. As she exited the ballroom, though, Chuck saw her draw a gun from her purse.
"What the hell is that?!" he asked, his eyes growing wide.
Sarah looked at him and sighed. "Bryce and I are federal agents," she replied. "There's a possibility that something might have happened to him – and possibly your fiancée as well."
Chuck's heart stood still. "Oh, God."
Sarah moved toward the restrooms. Creeping up to the door of the men's restroom, she slowly pushed it open a crack – and then slammed it open, her gun coming up –
To threaten an empty bathroom. "Damn," she hissed.
"Uh, Sarah," Chuck called. "There's weird noises coming from the women's restroom."
Crap, Sarah thought, her heart starting to beat double-time. Moving to the door to the women's restroom, she repeated the drill. She pushed the door open a crack, and then slammed it open, bringing her gun up to bear –
On the head of Bryce Larkin, pants around his ankles, furiously thrusting against Jill Roberts, who was perched on the bathroom counter, skirt around her waist. They both froze, looking toward the door in shock.
Sarah and Chuck both froze, but Chuck was the first to recover. "You… you… you backstabbing bitch!" he exclaimed in disbelief.
That broke Sarah from her reverie. "You son of a bitch," she growled at Bryce. "Give me one good reason not to put a bullet in you."
Sarah couldn't help it. She started laughing uncontrollably. "Oh, my God," she gasped. "Just the thought of us catching the two of them en flagrante… that's amazing."
Chuck grinned. "I thought you'd enjoy that."
Sarah shook her head, still laughing. "Also, backstabbing bitch? Was that good for you, Chuck?"
Chuck laughed as well. "Oh, you have no idea. Your turn."
Jennifer Burton sat on her lifeguard tower at Pacific Beach. She loved having this job – there was nothing better than spending all day at the beach, getting to swim, getting an epic tan. It was great –
Except when some idiot got himself stuck in a riptide, like one who appeared to be floundering about a hundred yards off shore. "Dammit," Jennifer swore, reaching for her binoculars. Focusing on the guy in the water, she saw that yep, he was, in fact, stuck in a riptide.
Jennifer sighed and reached down for her radio. "Base, this is Tower Four," she said. "I've got another swimmer stuck in the riptide. Heading out with the rescue board."
"Copy that," she heard her supervisor's voice reply as she descended the ladder. Grabbing her life preserver and her shortboard, she started jogging across the beach toward the ocean. In her peripheral vision, she could see one of the specially outfitted Jeep Wranglers heading her direction, likely with two backup lifeguards in case she needed help.
Climbing on top of the shortboard, Jennifer laid down on it and started paddling out toward the victim. Long, powerful strokes propelled her quickly across the ocean's surface, with beachgoers wisely clearing a path for her as she went.
It took Jennifer less than two seconds to reach the spluttering, stuck swimmer. Staying about five feet away from him so that she wouldn't get pulled into the riptide as well, Jennifer tossed him the life preserver. "Grab on," she instructed him, and he did so.
Jennifer paddled backward, backing her shortboard up until there was no slack left in the life preserver's line. Then, bracing herself the best that she could, she gave an almighty heave on the line, pulling her back toward the victim, but also yanking him out of the riptide.
"Thanks," he said, breathing heavily.
"It's my job," she replied, shaking her head. "You're not very accustomed to the beach, are you?"
He sighed. "No. I mean, I know about riptides, but I never expected to actually encounter one."
"Well," Jennifer replied, "that's why we post notices at the lifeguard towers."
"Fair enough," he said. "But yeah, thanks again." He stuck out his hand, and then realized the difficulty of shaking hands in several feet of ocean. "My name's Chuck."
Jennifer nodded and smiled slightly. "Jennifer. Try not to drown, Chuck, okay?"
Chuck laughed and smiled – and it was a smile that nearly knocked Jennifer off her board. "Honestly, I might just have to get stuck again, if you're gonna come out here after me every time."
Jennifer laughed. "You know what, if you get stuck again, I'm going to make sure to send my supervisor out after you. He's a forty-five year old ex-Army Ranger."
Chuck shuddered. "I think I'll take a pass on that one."
"That's not fair," Chuck objected. "You've made me a 'dude in distress' twice now."
Sarah shook her head. "That was payback for the knight in shining armor one –"
"Which was payback for me getting beat up by a bully!" Chuck shot back. "Come on!"
Sarah rolled her eyes. "You are such a dork," she said with a laugh. "This is your last one, so you better make it good!"
Jenny Burton was one of the best street racers in Los Angeles. Nobody knew her by that name, though – to everybody in the scene, she was simply "Walker".
Jenny wasn't quite sure how she had acquired that nickname. Nonetheless, it was a feared one – she hadn't lost a race in over a year.
Tonight wasn't looking to be any different, either. Her Toyota Supra had a notorious habit of making dogmeat of the competition, and with a Honda Civic and a Nissan Maxima lined up against her, she didn't think that things were going to be any different tonight.
That was, until the Volvo S80 rolled up to the line. Midnight black from bumper to bumper, it seemed to exude intimidation.
The passenger door opened, and a shorter guy – he looked to be about 5'6" – stepped out of the car.
"Who the hell are you?" called Carina, Jenny's friend and the person in charge of the race purse.
"My name's Morgan Grimes!" he called back. "I'm here with my friend, who will be driving in your race."
Carina's face took on a dangerous look. "Says who?"
Morgan smiled. "Says the pink slip and the five thousand dollars in my hand."
Carina's face went from dangerous to unsure. She looked over at Jenny, who nodded slightly. "Alright," Carina replied. "Do we get to see your friend the driver?"
"Nope," Morgan replied. "Not until the end of the race."
That's when Jenny realized – this driver had to be Unseen. She had heard stories about this guy before – he hadn't lost a race yet, and he always had his friend do the logistics. It was said that if ever he lost, he would reveal himself – and really, he'd have to, because he'd be turning the car over to the winner. However, since he hadn't lost, nobody had seen him.
Carina looked over to Jenny, who nodded again. "Okay," Carina said uncertainly. "Well, uh, Mr. Grimes, if you could step away from the line, we can get started."
Jenny smiled and rolled up her windows. She needed some good driving music, especially if she was going to unmask Unseen.
Let's go with Rage Against the Machine, she thought to herself. "Bulls On Parade" should be long enough for the two mile circuit. It was a circuit Jenny knew well – Canoga down to Lassen, Lassen over to Topanga Canyon, Topanga Canyon up to Devonshire, and Devonshire back over to Canoga. The tricky part about the route was that a block west of Canoga there were train tracks, and God help you if you got stuck at a train.
The unmistakable guitar work of Tom Morello kicked in on Jenny's stereo – and Carina waved the flag. A quick shift into first gear, and Jenny was gone. The Civic and the Maxima were left in her dust – but interestingly enough, the Volvo stuck right on her rear bumper.
The cars screamed down Canoga Avenue, taking the right hand turn onto Lassen with the Volvo still on Jenny's bumper as if there was a magnet guiding it. As they were crossing the train tracks, Jenny could hear the far-off hoot of a train coming. I wonder if we'll beat it on the Devonshire side, she thought.
The Volvo continued to stick to her rear bumper as Jenny took the right onto Topanga Canyon – and then, as they crossed Mayall Street, the driver of the Volvo pulled out to the left and gunned his motor – something that astonished Jenny, as she was running almost at red line.
"Like hell," she muttered, punching her left NOS button. The Supra sped up, but it seemed that the driver of the Volvo did the same thing, matching her acceleration for each MPH she gained.
They took the right hand turn onto Devonshire with the Volvo leading Jenny by scant feet – and then she heard the hoot of the train again. It was much closer now. In fact, as they crossed Owensmouth Avenue, the crossing guards on the train crossing started to come down, red lights flashing.
Jenny's heartrate increased as she hit her right hand NOS button. She shot ahead, but the Volvo stayed with her.
Jenny could see the train now, and she was starting to get nervous. She didn't know if there would be enough room for both cars to beat the train.
Come on, baby, come on, she thought, trying to mentally urge her car to go faster. There was no way it was going to happen – the train was too close – only one car was going to make it –
Without warning, the Volvo dropped back, swerved into the parking lane, and accelerated again. "Jesus," Jenny breathed as it inched past her –
Both cars crossed the train tracks with bare inches to spare. The train's horn blew in anger as they rocketed past, and then the driver of the Volvo yanked his car back out of the parking lane, missing a parked truck by the skin of its driver's teeth.
Jenny gritted her teeth and tried to force her car to go faster, but it was to no avail. The Volvo's front bumper crossed Canoga maybe five feet ahead of Jenny's, but it didn't matter. She had lost. Unseen would continue to be just that –
Wait a second. He had turned his car around, and was driving back toward her. The Volvo S80 slowed to a stop as Jenny got out of her car –
And the door opened, revealing the least likely person anybody had ever suspected to be behind the wheel. A lanky, somewhat geeky looking guy with curly brown hair, dressed in a short-sleeved white shirt with a black tie and a pocket protector, stepped out of the Volvo.
"That was an amazing piece of driving," he said to Jenny with a grin. "Nobody has ever come that close to beating me."
Jenny shook her head – she couldn't think of anything to say. "Uh, thanks," she said.
"Of course," he replied. "My name's Chuck Bartowski."
"Jenny Burton," she said, shaking his proffered hand.
Chuck grinned. "Very nice to meet you, Jenny."
Sarah smiled. "That was ridiculous, Chuck."
Chuck shrugged. "Hey, we all need a little ridiculous in our lives."
"True," Sarah replied. "I liked it, though."
Chuck smiled back at her. "Good. Your turn – the last one."
"Oh, I've got a good one."
It was a warm Tuesday afternoon in September. Ripples of heat radiated from the asphalt surface of the massive parking lot as Sarah Walker approached the Buy More.
As the doors to the store opened, she was greeted by a blast of cool air. Looking around, she quickly saw the Nerd Herd desk that her mark was assigned to, right in the center of the store.
He was easy to identify – the tall one, with curly brown hair, clearly in command of his situation. Charles "Chuck" Bartowski was taller than Sarah expected – although, that might have just been an illusion due to the small, gnome-like individual who was standing next to him. Morgan Grimes – Chuck's best friend, according to the file.
You know, I do believe I've heard this one before. And since when is Morgan gnomish?!
Hey, shut up. This is my story.
As Sarah approached, Grimes started saying something. He thought he was being quiet, but Sarah could hear every word.
"Stop the presses!" he hissed to Chuck. "Who is that?!"
Chuck ignored him. "Vicki Vale!" Grimes stage-whispered.
Chuck grinned, but didn't look up. "Vicki Vale, vick-va-Vicki Vale, vickity vickity vickity vale –"
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Sarah said with a smile.
Chuck's head jerked up as he dropped both his binder and his phone to the floor. "Uh, no… not at all… that's from… uh, it's from Batman."
Sarah smiled. "Because that makes it better."
Chuck laughed nervously, and then Morgan interposed himself. "Uh, hey, I'm Morgan. And this is, uh, Chuck."
Sarah spoke without thinking. "Wow, I didn't realize people still named their kids Chuck, or, uh, Morgan, for that matter!"
She realized what she had said a second too late, and almost kicked herself, but then she looked at Chuck. He didn't appear to be angry or offended, but actually, she saw the amusement on his face. Then she looked into his eyes –
And it seemed like she was able to look back at her, into her soul. For a brief second, she was almost willing to let herself get lost in those eyes, and God knew she needed something, after everything she had been through in the prior forty-eight hours…
Oh boy, she thought with a mental sigh. This guy is gonna be trouble.
Chuck didn't say anything for a moment. "I like that one," he finally said, his voice soft.
Sarah nodded. "I like it too."
The lights chose that moment to finally flicker back on. Chuck looked up, and then outside. "It's stopped snowing," he said. "And with the power back on – it's getting pretty late. I should probably get home."
Sarah shook her head. "I'm sure Ellie will understand if you don't come home tonight."
Chuck looked at her, confused. "But… I'll be fine. I'm okay with driving home if it's stopped snowing, and the power's back on –"
"Chuck," Sarah interrupted him with a smile. "I'm not telling you not to go home out of concern for your safety."
Chuck still looked confused, and then realization dawned on him. "Ohhhh," he said. "You want me to stay."
Sarah laughed and shook her head. "You are so slow sometimes."
Chuck snorted. "Whatever, Miss Mo-HEE-to."
Author's Note: Okay, so first things first. "Mo-HEE-to" is something that has popped up in a couple of other Chuck fanfics. According to a couple of authors, mojitos get Sarah drunk, and then she pronounces it oddly. I decided that I agree with this statement!
Secondly, you might recognize Chuck's first story. It's actually a re-telling of when Chuck and Sarah met in Chapter 5 of Chuck vs. His Destiny.
Of course you'll recognize Sarah's final story – it's the moment they met in the pilot. However, those of you who have been reading my stuff for a while might also recognize it as the way it was told in Chapter 20 of The Seduction of Sarah Walker.